Pcs' bravery commended after gunman tried to drown officer in drain tunnel fight

Two police officers who chased an armed man into an overflowing drain in Walsall have be commended on their bravery.

Pcs Paul Newman and Holly Necchi. Photo: West Midlands Police
Pcs Paul Newman and Holly Necchi. Photo: West Midlands Police

Pc Paul Newman feared his eyes would be gouged out and then drowned when he was attacked by a man who had fled a car when officers discovered a loaded handgun.

Pc Holly Necchi heard her colleague’s cries for help and it was thanks to her that Pc Newman survived the attack.

Jon Nott, chair of West Midlands Police Federation, said: “These two officers were incredibly brave, neither of them really knew what they would encounter when they ran into this storm drain.

“They knew the man they were pursuing had a gun in his car and they knew he desperately wanted to escape from them. But, despite that, they were determined to catch him regardless of the fact they were putting their own lives at risk to do so.

“For Pc Necchi there was the added pressure of knowing her colleague was under attack so it was critical she got to him. Pc Newman put up a valiant fight when he came under a sustained and horrific attack and I’m sure that Pc Necchi’s arrival at the scene prevented him receiving further injuries or even worse.

“I am sure, like so many other nominees for the bravery awards, they would say they were just doing their job but their brave actions should be recognised.”

The incident happened in 2019 when officers were on an operation on Bescot Retail Park, Walsall. A VW Golf was brought onto the site and Pc Necchi spoke to the driver, Calvert Batchelor.

While checking him on the Police National Computer, it was established he had warning markers for possession of a firearm and intelligence linked him to gangs and drug dealing.

A Glock-style blank-firing pistol had been illegally modified to fire live rounds

Pc Necchi got Batchelor, who had started to appear very agitated, out of the car and began a stop and search. Other officers searched the car and, as an officer approached the driver’s door, Batchelor ran away.

Pc Necchi chased him into a brook that ran alongside the area where the car had been stopped. Realising he was surrounded, Batchelor ran into the storm drain.

The drain was around 10ft wide by 6ft high, and Pc Newman reached Batchelor when it came to an end after about 25 metres.

At that point, the drain was shallow and both Pc Newman and Batchelor were crawling on their hands and knees in relatively deep water, mud, silt, rubbish and debris.

Batchelor grabbed a branch which was a metre long and 8cm thick and tried to swing it at the officer, but failed due to the limited space. He then launched himself at Pc Newman, grabbed him with one arm around the back of his head and with the other gouged at his eyes.

Calvert Batchelor was jailed for more than nine years

Pc Newman remembered the intense pressure as his attacker’s fingers dug into his eye sockets and felt he was trying to ‘wrench’ out his eyeballs. He recalled everything going intensely, brilliant white, rather than the blackness he expected, and also the indescribable pain.

Batchelor suddenly let go and grabbed Pc Newman by the jaw, reaching under his tongue to use his middle finger to punch a hole through the floor of his mouth, just below his lower front teeth.

Pc Newman’s reaction was to bite his assailant but was dragged backwards by the jaw, held under water for about 30 seconds at which point he felt exhausted and feared he was about to die.

Bachelor, from Alma Street, Newtown, admitted causing grievous bodily harm, possession of a prohibited firearm and possession of ammunition without a certificate.

He was jailed for nine years and four months in January 2020.

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